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Genoa loan spell has breathed life back into M’Baye Niang’s career

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In 38 matches for AC Milan, M’Baye Niang’s stat line was simple – one Coppa Italia goal and two assists in all competitions.

A one-time transfer target for Arsenal and Chelsea, the French-born striker was signed by Milan in 2012 at the tender age of 17. In 22 games for the Italian giants that season, Niang produced very little, playing only 953 minutes – an average of less than 45 minutes per match that he featured in.

However, Niang’s fortunes changed when he was loaned to France’s Montpellier in January 2014. The former French Under-21 scored four goals and tallied two assists in 18 games and Niang’s excellent form for La Paillade helped the club stave off relegation.

The 20-year-old returned to Milan last summer, but after seeing a mere 87 minutes of first team football he joined Genoa on loan in January of this year. Signed to help fill the hole left by the exits of leading goal scorer Alessandro Matri and back-up Mauricio Pinilla, Niang has flourished in the port city.

In 14 games, the striker has notched five goals and two assists, including a strike against his parent club in Genoa’s 3-1 win at San Siro in late April.

Last week against Torino, Niang turned in another stellar performance, combining well with his attack partners Marco Borriello, Iago Falque and Andrea Bertolacci. The Grifone ran riot over Torino as the team moved with a point of Europa League qualification thanks to a 5-1 win.

Niang is not the first player to arrive at Genoa in desperate need of rejuvenation. Genoa have been a haven of rebirth for many players under coach Gian Piero Gasperini.

This season alone, Genoa have had several players in the team to have been “given up on” by former clubs. Falque is only 25, but is now playing for his eighth club. Having spent time as a youth player with Real Madrid and Barcelona before being transferred to Juventus and Tottenham, few expected the Spaniard to become Genoa’s leading goal scorer (11) this season.

Meanwhile, Marco Borriello returned this year for his third spell with the Grifone. The Stadio Luigi Ferraris has long been the sight of Borriello’s best football during his career. Despite not scoring since his return, the Italian has tallied two assists.

Argentine Diego Perotti is another example of a player reborn this term with Genoa. Signed from Sevilla on a four-year deal, Perotti is one of the more highly sought after creative players in Serie A.

Though he is no out for the remainder of the season with an injury, Perotti found the back of the net four times for Genoa while adding five assists.

Niang is currently under contract to Milan until the summer of 2017. After his performances for Genoa a move away from Italy might be on the cards. English Premier League sides Newcastle, Everton, Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham have all been linked in the past year. Newcastle had tried to sign the Frenchman in January, but the Magpies’ interest was rebuffed prior to Niang’s Genoa switch.

The good news for Genoa supporters, is Niang is interested in staying with the club next season. In March the youngster expressed his desire to stay when he spoke to Sky Italia.

“I believe I can give a great deal to this team and Genoa can give a lot more to me,” Niang stated. “I would like another year at Genoa, but it’s too early to talk about that now.”

Genoa and Milan are regular bed-partners when it comes to transfers. This past season has seen the two swap the likes of Matri and Luca Antonelli. Going back further, it was Genoa who signed Kevin-Prince Boateng in 2010, only to immediate loan him to the Rossoneri. Milan signed the Ghanaian permanently the next summer without him ever playing for Genoa.

With the relationship between the two clubs, it is quite likely Niang will be allowed to stay and grow further under Gasperini’s tactical acumen.

Genoa are currently in seventh place in Serie A, just a point behind their city-rivals Sampdoria for the last Europa League spot. However, Genoa have been denied a UEFA license for next season. To lump them in with Parma, who were not granted a license last season, would be wrong as the FIGC’s rejection of the application was down to non-financial reasons. The club is appealing.

If Genoa can keep Niang as well as their other stars, the club could be a top-five finisher in 2015/16. Unfortunately for Genoa supporters, the Grifone don’t hold onto top players long and the summer could see several of them leave.

Regardless, Gasperini and Genoa have breathed life back into M’Baye Niang and he is now showing il battito del cuore once more.

Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @Calciofarmer. Drew Farmer is a Manchester, England-based journalist/blogger that has written for Forza Italian Football and World Soccer Talk. Originally from southwest Missouri, Drew covers Italy’s Serie A, the English football and the USA’s Major League Soccer.

 

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